“If a technological feat is possible, man will do it. Almost as if it’s wired into the core of our being.”
The mysterious cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi spoke those fateful words in 1995’s animated feature film adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s seminal cyberpunk manga series, Ghost in the Shell. It is a cyberpunk masterpiece that tackles questions of humanity, identity, and the convergence of mankind and technology in some seriously thought-provoking ways. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, the film immediately forces the viewer to wrestle with these ideas through an infamous opening sequence–known as the “shelling sequence”–in which we witness a cyborg (later revealed to be the Major) being created piece by piece. Scored by Kenji Kawai’s terse, crescendoing taiko drums and an otherworldly geisha chorus, the shelling sequence is startling, entrancing, and emblematic of the dualism that the film spends much of its time exploring.
It’s a heady sequence in and of itself, and doesn’t seem like something that would be easily adaptable for a live-action medium. Yet Rupert Sanders and the filmmakers behind 2017’s Scarlett Johansson-starring Ghost in the Shell clearly took the Major’s words to heart, because not only is the technological feat of bringing the shelling sequence to life on the big screen possible, they did it. On Sunday, Paramount held a lavish event in Tokyo to celebrate its forthcoming anime adaptation where director Rupert Sanders and stars Scarlett Johansson and Takeshi Kitano took the stage to give audiences a first look at clips from the film and a brand new trailer. However, they started things off with a bit of a surprise: a first look at the film’s version shelling sequence, accompanied by a live version of the opening theme by composer Kenji Kawai and many of the vocalists who sang on the original film’s song.
For the sake of comparison, here is the opening sequence from the 1995 film.
(Editor’s note: this clip contains brief animated nudity and may be considered NSFW)
Apart from concerns over the perceived whitewashing of the Major Motoko Kusanagi role by casting Scarlett Johansson, the biggest potential issue many fans had with the film is whether or not they would be able to do justice to the source material. Not only are the aesthetics and imagery of the 1995 film and the 1989 manga seminal in their own way, but the philosophical issues the film grapples with are of paramount importance too. While the latter of these concerns will remain a mystery until 2017, the former seems to be something that the filmmakers are treating with the utmost respect as displayed by the footage revealed on Sunday evening. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that chills ran up my spine when the thunderous sound of the geisha chorus erupted in the packed function hall. While the visual effects are still a work in progress, the way the filmmakers handled the shelling sequence gave me a renewed sense of confidence about the film, which is saying something considering that anime is notoriously difficult for Hollywood to adapt.
This massive event comes on the heels of a new featurette starring the 1995 film’s director, Mamoru Oshii, who had nothing but kind words for Scarlett Johansson and her portrayal of the Major:
Here’s the film’s official synopsis:
Based on the internationally-acclaimed sci-fi property, “GHOST IN THE SHELL” follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.
Stay tuned to Nerdist later this week for more about the trailer and insight from our interviews with director Rupert Sanders and Scarlett Johansson, and check out a few more images in our gallery below.
Ghost in the Shell hits theaters on March 29, 2017.
What did you think of the recreation of the shelling sequence? Are you excited for the film? Let us know in the comments below.